One of the things I am most proud of at Singnasium is the community that has been created. I get lots of messages from students and teaching artists about how wonderful our Singnasium family is. I constantly hear the words SUPPORTIVE, SAFE, TRUSTWORTHY, LOVING, WARM, and INCLUSIVE when people describe their experiences in our classes, workshops, and open mics. In this newsletter, you will see how a group of singers from the Sing Your Story classes have kept the community spirit going over the last year. You will meet our 2 wonderful interns who have helped to up our social media presence, and get a little insight into one of our students, Julie Salzano.
If you haven’t seen our One Voice Project video, take a few minutes to see how the Singnasium family united to form one glorious voice.
Enjoy the beautiful weather, stay safe, and keep singing!!
On a weekly basis, a group of fabulous women get together to gab. What do they have in common? They all have taken Singnasium’s Sing Your Story class. But their connection now runs much deeper. We’ll let them fill you in!
Debbie Zecher: When the lockdown was announced and Singnasium had not yet (brilliantly) pivoted to online classes, I realized that my Wednesday afternoon Sing Your Story class had become something of an anchor for my week and I would be bereft without my classmates.
Barbara Kaplan: Our friend, Debbie Zecher, suggested that maybe we’d like to get together for a social meeting…no singing. What a great idea!
Mercedes Herman: We ladies just felt we were in limbo...we knew that zoom classes were coming soon, yet we felt disconnected.
Ronni Faust: The weekly Zoom meeting helped keep us all together and provide a forum for all manner of discussion — music, food, psychology, hair, fashion — everything under the sun!
Barbara: In the beginning, we were mostly getting to know each other in a way we didn’t in class…you might call it “Tell Your Story.” Little by little, we developed a strong bond and we all felt really safe with each other, whether we attended each meeting or only showed up when we could. For me, having gone to college at an art school in Manhattan, it was the closest thing I could think of as sorority sisters.
Debbie: And that Zoom group, “Cab Gab” as Marge Helenchild has termed it, has continued to be an anchor through this crazy year; we’ve now met every single week for 13 months. There are about 10-12 regulars and we have laughed and cried, shuddered at the state of the world and marveled as the world began to right itself. We have cheered each other as we got our vaccines, we have shared joys and sorrows and many online shopping discoveries.
Sarah Carson: What I like most about the group is the camaraderie, the fun and laughter we have shared, the support through these tough times and the opportunity to get to know my cabaret friends on a much deeper level than I ever could have before.
Mercedes: We all encourage each other and connect - like what new equipment to use (lights, audio) to the latest hair cutting equipment! I’ve learned this past year to love more. The connection was a life line! One of the best moments was when we all got to “tour” Joan’s apartment during the Christmas holiday. How she decorated her place, sharing her memories.
Barbara: Over the course of the months we discussed relationships, singing, Singnasium, the pandemic, fear, anxiety, politics (way too much politics), broken hips, throat polyps, dating, music, hair, hair roots, hair cuts, manicures, pedicures, anxiety about the pandemic, anxiety about the pandemic ending, politics…you get the picture.
Roberta Feldhusen: Although I have not been a regular attendee, when I do go I am instantaneously transported to a place of warm and welcoming cabaret friends. These amazing and talented women spend a sacred hour each Thursday. There's never a lull or dull moment in the conversation.
Marge Hellenchild: I like returning every week to something familiar that carries the past, present, and future of singing and cabaret in the most recent iteration of myself. It wasn’t all a dream!
Sarah: One of my favorite moments is our “show and tell” days when we ended up discussing in great depth the best toenail clippers and personal grooming equipment we all needed - much hilarity in this personal sharing!
Debbie: I celebrated a milestone birthday this past summer and I was gobsmacked when a cake from the group arrived that Thursday morning so my cabaret pals could sing happy birthday and share my celebration virtually.
Barbara: I won’t name names, but one of the girls brought in long tubes like Fla-Vor-Ice. But these were flavored Martinis! You can get them in Costco. I brought in my favorite root mascara. Unlike Rudi Giuliaini, mine doesn’t run down your cheeks if you begin to sweat (Boyd’s Brush-It-Away, on Amazon). But the best was the elastic waist pants. You can guess which comedian/singer came up with those!
Joan Darragh: The best moments were the melt downs--a good old fashion girlfriend cry. We had them, and we recovered together. Probably my fondest moment was my big Teddy Bear giving Barbara a Zoom hug when she asked for one. Hoping for the day when we are off-screen, until then the connection continues--a warm assurance of better times to come.
Sarah: I think the idea of continuity has been big for me, I have looked forward each week to my Zoom hour with my cabaret friends, to laugh together, share ideas, commiserate, support, and hold each other’s hands (through the magic of the internet). This group has been so incredibly supportive in such a difficult time - keeping us connected from living room to living room, across the miles and I certainly hope that even when we are able to meet again in person, that we will continue enjoying our Thursday Zooming together.
Ronni: It was a great way to keep us all connected, and evolved into a supportive, loving group of singers— something to look forward to each week! It kept me sane (well, saner) and made me feel part of something special.
Marge Hellenchild: This group reminds me that I am alive. I still am a member of this community. It has been a psychologically very difficult year.
Roberta: This community has truly been a gift during this crazy year. Thank you Sing Your Story! 'Grateful, grateful, truly grateful I am!'
Debbie: I am so deeply grateful to this wonderful group of friends who have truly been my stalwart companions through the pandemic.
Barbara: I know I can count on these women for their support, they are real friends. It won’t be the same when we get back into the new world, but I’m sure we will work hard to keep in touch and see each other. We share a unique experience during a terrible time in life. We have become a sisterhood, and who wouldn’t want that?
We almost called this article: “Our Interns, Our Angels” - because we LOVE our interns! Katherine Reardon and Mitchell-lee van Rooij joined the Singnasium family this year as interns. Both are getting their masters degrees in Arts Administration at Baruch College. And both have been tirelessly working to further our cause. From researching outreach opportunities to setting our social media on fire, they’ve jumped in with both feet to our Singnasium family and we couldn’t be happier to have them! Let’s meet our interns!
Mitchell-lee van Rooij
Mitchell-lee van Rooij earned his Bachelor of Dance in 2005 and danced extensively for over 13 years in The Netherlands. He has performed all over the world, including the Joyce Theater in NYC. He’s currently transitioning into a profession with more leadership in the Arts and worked as a dance critic at Dance Europe Magazine and as a Publicity and Marketing-assistant at Dansmakers Amsterdam. Mitchell also helped creating an audience engagement and experience project at Festival WhyNot, a performance festival that stimulates innovation in modern dance. His most recent affiliation with the Arts in The Netherlands was as an advisor for The Arts Council (Raad voor Cultuur) where he promoted to create a safe and nurturing environment for artists. At present, he works for two independent visual artists in New York City where he helps out as an archivist. Most recently he assisted in curating an exhibition that opened in January 2020 in Brooklyn.
How much do we love our students? VERY MUCH! Each student comes to singing and Singnasium from diverse backgrounds and all corners of the globe. Let’s get to know Julie Salzano, who has been with Singnasium since it’s early days.
Julie Salzano comes from a long line of theatrical performers. And by long, her lineage goes back to the middle of the 18th century where both sides of the family were musical performers in Rimini, Italy performing Giuseppi Verdi’s operas. (That’s a LONG line!) Her aunt was a cabaret singer and performed for years in the clubs and theaters in New York City.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Julie began performing at five with her aunt in an Off-Broadway production and kept at it, performing in plays all through high school. She then took up scenic design in college.
Her theatre career took a bit of a pivot after Columbia University graduate school when Julie became one of 200 women who entered the 38,000 male Police Department in New York City. Her education brought her to work for the Psychology Unit, when she entered a post-doctoral certificate in Psychology, taught part-time at Hofstra University and then full-time at New York Institute of Technology, earning distinguished teaching awards.
Julie has been published extensively in her field of Criminal Justice and Psychology. Through it all she kept creative, writing screenplays and winning four writing awards from the Houston World Fest Festival and the Charleston Film Festival. She produced a cable show called “Criminal Justice Today.” And has written and produced three Off-Broadway shows, winning acclaim for writing from award-winning producer Patty Hirsh.
Julie’s love for singing never wavered. Taking classes at Singers Forum, she won an Equity award. When Singers Forum ended, Julie joined Singnasium working with Lennie Watts, Brad Simmons, and Carmen Cancel to perfect her skills to one day do her own show. Keep singing, Julie!
Thank you for taking the time to get to know Singnasium Student, Julie Salzano.
Beyond taking our classes and connecting with the broader Singnasium community, our students often floor us with their talents. Ann Talman is one of those students.
Ann is currently taking Swing Time 1 and 2 and loving it! But before enrolling in Singnasium, Ann put together an amazing one-woman show that was made into an equally amazing, award winning short film about her brother who courageously battled cerebral palsy.
The synopsis of the film captures it perfectly: "Family legend is that Ann was 'ordered up' in 1957 by Woody, eight and severely cerebral palsied. He did not want to be alone in the world if anything happened to mom and dad. Being non-verbal was no obstacle. He’d touch mother’s stomach and dad’s lap and wave his hands like wands. She was nicknamed Woody’s Order! Her destiny: 'To be thy brother’s keeper just in case.' In childhood she embraced it. Woody was a real live doll to care for. But she had another destiny. At twenty-two she debuted on Broadway as Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter. She wrote a hit solo play which opened in her hometown, Pittsburgh. This short film, which premiered at Tribeca, captures Ann performing portions of the solo play for Woody on a New York stage. Interwoven are stunning home movies that capture their lifelong bond."
We feel very privileged to share this beautiful tribute with all of you, but ask that you do not share more broadly (e.g., please do not post to social media, etc.)
Watch Woody's Order (16:15 min).
"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
--Percy Bysshe Shelley
The days are short, the nights are cold but if you listen closely, you can hear music in the air. Singnasium is in full swing with more classes than ever. Computer screens all over the country are lighting up the faces of people who refuse to let the winter blahs, and an almost year long quarantine keep them from lifting their voices, staying connected, and fulfilling their need for music in their lives. The Singnasium family is growing and we couldn’t be happier to be building this very special community of artists.
If you haven’t experienced the Singnasium community, now is the time! Check out one of our classes, or join us at our free, monthly open mic, SINGapalooza.
Stay safe, keep warm, and keep singing!
One of the newer Teaching Artists on the Singnasium roster, Jerry Phelps, teaches the very popular, Piano for Singers. Students flex their muscles by learning how to accompany themselves while they sing. We recently reached out to Jerry to get a peak into his world.
Tell us a little about your musical background.
If you could do a duet with anyone, living or dead, who would it be, why, and what song?
What an impossible question to ask a singer! There are so many voices I love, but I'd probably say Cece Winans or Brandy. I spent much of my adolescence trying to learn every single thing they did vocally. They both have that rare combination of insanely versatile and flexible voices and a genuine sing-from-their-toes sort of tone.
How did you get into teaching?
I don't ever remember not teaching. When I played school with my sisters and cousins as a child, I was the principal. I've always felt like a teacher and knew that much of my life would be teaching others.
What have learned over the last year during the pandemic?
I've learned to love and hate Zoom. I love how much it can keep us connected, but I miss making music in real life. I've been joking, but I'm pretty serious when I say: I CANNOT WAIT TO PAY $8.50 FOR A FLAT DIET COKE AND A RUDE WAITRESS IN A CABARET ROOM!
What are the first three things you are going to do when all of this is over?
Hug the people I love for a very long time. Go out dancing. Sing on a stage!
We are thrilled to announce the fall 2020 lineup of online classes and workshops! In addition to the popular Singnasium classes you love, like Arrangement Experience, Sing Your Story, SwingTime, and The Training Room, Grammy Award winner, Julie Gold, returns with Write, Write, Write, Right? Right! and Broadway and Cabaret Diva, Karen Mason will return with The Song Is YOU. If up till now, your musical training has been limited to the shower, car, or with a hairbrush, join Jennie Litt for So You Want to Sing. Learn the basics of accompanying yourself in Piano for Singers with Jerry Phelps. Feeling Fancy? Join Carmen Cancél for Classical Songs and Artistry.
Musical Theater WILL come back! Will YOU be ready? Broadway Funny Lady, Kristine Zbornik will help you Own Your Audition, and Joshua Zecher-Ross will Get Your Book Together. We are thrilled to have Tony Award winner Nikki M. James joining us with Breaking the Mold. Also joining the Singnasium family are Broadway, Television, and Recording Artist Mykal Kilgore teaching Modern Musical Theater Styles, and Broadway Veteran (last seen in Hades Town), Afra Hines, helping you to Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body.
Not enough for you? Come join us for our popular Open Mic, SINGAPALOOZA. We’ll be coming back to you monthly on Fridays: 9/25, 10/23, and 11/20.
And finally, our fall line up includes Tony Award nominee, Sharon McNight, who will be offering a one-day Comedy Song Workshop on Saturday, September 12.
But wait! Mark your calendars for our annual Fall Fun(d) Raiser on Thursday, October 15th at 7:30pm. This year’s event will be virtual (of course!) and the theme will be: Paint the Town (Whatever Town You’re In!) I can’t wait for you to join us!
Singnasium recently reached out to Teaching Artist, Michael Holland, to check in on how he is weathering the last few months, when he knew he wanted to become a musician and which songs he wishes he’d written.
What keeps you creative during these crazy times?
Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! I took on a bunch of smaller projects as soon as they materialized, so my schedule is pretty jam-packed. When everything first shut down, quite a bit of work dried up, including the world premiere of one of my musicals. So, with a suddenly empty calendar, I decided to write a few non-theatrical songs (for the first time in years!), and put out a couple of videos - basically just to have something to do - plus about four or five songs for a new show that's been on a back burner for a while. We even did a Zoom reading of it, for my collaborator and me to see if we were actually onto something or not. Turns out we are, so we'll keep that moving.
But then doing music for a living picked up again, so July has been all about arranging/recording for a couple of virtual concert events (including The Arrangement Experience!). In August, I'm prepping one of my incidental scores for publication/licensing, as well as finishing a few demo projects of other people's material.
My favorite thing to do is write, but I needed to diversify my skill set in order to continue living indoors. As a result, sometimes the recording/engineering, orchestration, or even (God forbid) copy work delays my being able to get at my first love. But when I actually do get the time, it makes me that much more productive. I've had some pretty great teachers along the way (though not so much in my actual field; I come with a staggering lack of training), who showed me that the secret of life is to never stop learning. If you don't become complacent, inspiration seems to perpetuate itself. Besides, as a friend/mentor once told me, "There's no such thing as writer's block. Because if you get it, somebody else won't."
When did you realize you wanted to be a songwriter/arranger?
I knew from a very early age that I wanted to do something in the arts. So did my parents once it became clear that I was simply not about to catch that baseball. But I didn't know if I would be a singer, an actor, a painter, etc. When I was twelve, my family were all in the car, and something decidedly different came on the radio. "What's that?" I asked. My mom reached over to turn up the volume. "Oh, I heard this earlier in the week; I think you're gonna like it," she said. "They're called Queen." The next five minutes-and-change absolutely ruined me for life. I remember saying, "I didn't know you were allowed to do this!" (Turns out you're not, and they weren't, but they did it anyway.) I needed to figure out how four people could make so much noise, and so many different kinds of noises. Still working on that one. But my fate as a songwriter and vocal arranger was sealed.
The instrumental arranging came later - when I finally learned to say yes when the phone rang, and just try new things. That was how I accidentally learned that I could do a lot of different things, and actually enjoyed doing them.What song do you wish you had written, and why?
Only one? There are so many ingenious ones... I'm gonna go with the first one that popped into my head, and say "MacArthur Park." And not that Donna Summer sacrilege either, I'm talking about the real one. The Richard Harris (!!!) extravaganza. I don't care that it doesn't make a lick of sense: it's brash and fearless and bombastic and preposterous. It's everything! And the orchestration, also by Jimmy Webb, is a complete time capsule. (Back to Queen: Brian May says, "If something's worth doing, then surely it's worth overdoing.") And it feels like it's always been here somehow.
I firmly believe songs should feel inevitable rather than concocted or forced into being. This is not to say that I listen to nothing but overblown nonsense - I love my Joni and Sondheim and Gershwin and Billy Joel, and unfairly less-celebrated masters like Nik Kershaw or Andy Partridge. But the stuff that really has no business existing and yet there it is being glorious? That's what got me into this mess in the first place. Songs that I can listen to all these years later and say, no matter how much knowledge, experience, or courage I may accumulate, I would never have come up with that. And I'm so glad somebody did.